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Versailles and Science
Versailles and Science

Vacuum machines and exotic menageries... This exhibition describes the relationship between Versailles and science: scientific instruments and works found in the collections of the kings, research tools and teaching aids as well as the innovations and inventions which were developed in the palace.
The sciences were closely overseen from Versailles. The King, encouraged by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, became aware of the stakes involved in scientific research, and with Colbert's creation of the Academy of Sciences, a new pact was established between ruling power and scientists, many of whom, and amongst the most renowned, could regularly be seen at Court. They acted as private tutors to princes, medical practitioners or military engineers. Diderot and d'Alembert met in the mezzanine of Doctor Quesnay, physician to Madame de Pompadour, the Abbé Nollet and Benjamin Franklin compared theories under the watchful gaze of the king, and some courtiers established themselves as genuine experts.
The Palace of Versailles provided the resources that research required: the rare animals of the Menagerie were at the disposal of anatomists and the Trianon Estate was available to botanists, zoologists and agronomists. Hippiatry, the precursor to veterinary sciences, began in the Great Stables.
New teaching methods were devised for the child-princes, using tools at the forefront of research. Louis XIV may have seen himself as the patron of science, as he was of the arts, without actually practising them, but his successors were quite the opposite; Louis XV and also Louis XVI, were real enthusiasts. A presentation before the king or a demonstration before the court was the ultimate recognition, the equivalent of a Nobel Prize. The flight of the first Montgolfier hot-air balloon is well known, but so many other demonstrations have been forgotten, such as the burning-glass experiment before Louis XIV or the electricity experiment before his successor in the Hall of Mirrors.
Jean Garnier (1632-1705)
Versailles, châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon
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